Fresh Eats: Our weekly roundup of SFoodie news

EAT THIS: Plow's Pumpkin Pancakes

By John Birdsall

Canned puree is the blood pulsing through the pumpkin spice cookie, sticky tea loaf, and clammy pancake, staining all a muddy orange we think of, simply, as "pumpkin." And the taste? Well, nobody should pretend they can actually taste Cucurbita pepo through all that cinnamon, allspice, and ginger.

Plow's Maxine Siu takes a different approach with her pumpkin pancakes ($9). Instead of reaching for the can opener, Siu roasts sugar pie pumpkins — halved, seeded, and smeared with olive oil — till they've softened, then scoops out the meat. The result is pancakes threaded with bits of marigold-yellow flesh, unspiced, and with a very subtle vegetable sweetness. They taste, well, real. Make them sweet as cake, if you want to, with maple syrup. Me, I'm content to eat my squash.

Plow: 1299 18th St. (at Texas), 821-7569.

The Best Sparklers for Mimosas

By Brant Foehl

Like many a San Franciscan on a slightly fuzzy morning, I love a nice morning drink to clear the haze or put a bounce in my step. The three standard breakfast drink choices: Bloody Marys, screwdrivers, and mimosas. Perfecting the first is an art, the second could be made by a moderately intelligent chimpanzee, and the third is continuously disheartening. How can something so basic as a two-part drink continually let me down?

The issue I usually have is that I cannot taste the Champagne. A good friend, who doesn't believe that restaurants put real Champagne into most mimosas, orders a glass of Champagne alongside a glass of orange juice, then mixes her own. Her theory led me to concoct an experiment, if drinking copious amounts of mimosas can be labeled scientific. On a recent Wednesday morning, three of my trusty bar partners and I set out to answer a question: Does it matter what kind of Champagne (or sparkling wine) is used in a mimosa?

For the experiment I procured four different sparkling wines ranging in style, country of origin, and price. The four sparkling wines we used are all widely available in San Francisco: J. Laurens Brut, a French Champagne ($16); J Winery Cuvée, a California sparkler ($25); Bellusi Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine ($14); and Andres Brut (a staggering $5). We had a fifth party label the glasses and "blind" them so none of the tasters had any idea which sparkling wine was in which glass.

After evenly distributing the orange juice among the flutes we began drinking ... I mean experimenting. We went to separate corners of the room, took notes, then reconvened. Amazingly, all four of us chose the same sparkling wine for the best mimosa and same wine for the worst:

1. J. Laurens Brut. We all felt that the heaviness of the French Champagne cut through the acidity in the orange juice, plus the wine's bready tones gave the drink body and richness.

2. J Cuvee and the Bellusi Prosecco. These tied for second, but since it's my article I'm going to give the edge to the Prosecco. Its moderate acids meant that the orange juice overpowered the wine, but it yielded an even, drinkable mimosa.

3. J Cuvee. A citrus bomb bursting with bubbles and bright floral tones. This was most like the mimosas served up in bars. Not bad, but not great either.

4. Andres Brut. None of us could tell the difference between the mimosa and a plain glass of juice. Fail.

The moral? Price doesn't necessarily determine the quality of a mimosa, but it does matter. We ranked the $25 J third out of four wines and the $5 Andres last. What matters most is weight: Any sparkler with classic yeasty flavors will break through the acid in the orange juice and produce a better mimosa.

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